Remembering the Rory-Tiger show from 2012 Honda

By Damon HackFebruary 26, 2014, 4:09 pm

Tiger Woods stood on the 13th tee at PGA National, an unforgiving labyrinth of deep bunkers and murky water, and unleashed a bullet draw into the horizon. He turned away from the shot, not even bothering to watch its descent.

“Fairway,” Woods said to his caddie, Joe LaCava, and they walked off the tee.

Woods had begun the final round of the 2012 Honda Classic nine shots behind Rory McIlroy, but now he was making his move. Winless on the PGA Tour since 2009, saddled with questions about his play following scandal and injury, Woods was trying to change the conversation in one afternoon.

McIlroy had his own burden. A win would vault him atop the world golf rankings for the first time in his career. In 2009, also during the Honda Classic, McIlroy and his father, Gerry, had bumped into Jack Nicklaus at a mall in Palm Beach Gardens. The older champion would become a mentor.

Now, three years later, Nicklaus would sit in an NBC booth and watch McIlroy try to become the No. 1 player in the world. Woods, McIlroy’s boyhood idol, would be moving heaven and earth to stop him.

An eagle by Woods on the third hole had put a jolt into his chase. A “low rider” (his words) 6-iron to 10 feet on No. 5 pulled him closer to McIlroy. Woods would go out in 31.

“Just felt normal,” Woods would say later that day. “I was trying to make my way up the board. Didn’t feel any different.”

McIlroy was holding steady – he went out in 34 and bogeyed No. 12 – but he could not ignore the commotion five holes ahead of him. When McIlroy arrived to the 13th hole, Woods was playing the par-5 18th, where a strong drive had left him with a hanging lie in the fairway. Woods jumped all over a 5-iron, sending the ball fading over the water hazard and onto the green 8 feet away.

Just as McIlroy was lining up his putt for birdie, Woods poured in the eagle putt for a round of 62. Somehow, McIlroy steadied himself and rolled in the birdie on top of him to stay two clear of Woods.

“That putt was very important,” McIlroy would say later.

Woods faced the media, comparing his closing eagle to the 6-iron he summoned on the 72nd hole at Glen Abbey Golf Club in Canada in 2000. He ate lunch in the clubhouse and watched the Lakers and Heat on television.

McIlroy had more work to do. From the right of the 14th green, he exhumed his ball from a nasty lie and saved par. On the Bear Trap’s two par 3s – card-wrecking holes framed by water  – he twice found the sand and twice got up and down for par.

His 69 would be enough for a two-shot victory over Woods and Tom Gillis.

In the gloaming, he clutched his trophy and posed for pictures with several Honda Classic officials, a gaggle of youth golfers, and Barbara Nicklaus.

The ceremony over, McIlroy made his way to the clubhouse, where a platter of food sat in the men’s locker room. “Can I steal a cracker?” he asked an attendant and wearily wolfed down a wafer with cheese.

A young boy approached him with a golf ball.

“Great win,” he said to McIlroy, who signed it in large cursive.

McIlroy then signed 21 Honda Classic flags before posing for a photo with two policemen. He hugged his parents, Gerry and Rosie. He hugged his caddie, J.P. Fitzgerald.

“Well done, No. 1,” Fitzgerald said as McIlroy ducked into the back seat of a black Honda Odyssey Touring edition.

One year later, McIlroy would leave PGA National after a mid-round withdrawal on Friday, his confidence in retreat. Woods, too, was off the mark, failing to break 70 in any round, closing with a 74, and finishing tied for 37th.

This week, they return to PGA National with Woods as a No. 1 with questions and McIlroy a No. 8 with momentum.

They return to tackle the Champion Course and, by extension, each other.

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McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger

By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.

The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.

McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.

McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.

''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''

Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.

''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''

McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.

''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.

''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''

The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.

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Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel

By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 3:29 pm

If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days of engaging in pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.

Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:

If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:

Two weeks later, Stenson revealed a rib injury, and a report from the U.K.'s Telegraph stated "that not only was the Shanghai caper to blame, but that Stenson is annoyed about being persuaded to do it in the first place."

Stenson brushed back at that report in this Instagram post, saying that his "comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal."

I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H

A post shared by Henrik Stenson (@henrikstenson) on

And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.